Populist Challenge to the Establishment

Thaksin Shinawatra and the Transformation of Thai Politics

Authored by: Pasuk Phongpaichit , Chris Baker

Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415494274
eBook ISBN: 9780203155011
Adobe ISBN: 9781136579196

10.4324/9780203155011.ch6

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Abstract

Starting in the years around the millennium, the word ‘populism’ began to appear in Asia (Mizuno and Pasuk 2009). 1 In the Philippines, Joseph Estrada was dubbed a populist after he won election as president in 1998 as a hero of the poor. In Thailand, a Thai translation of the word ‘populist’ was created to describe Thaksin Shinawatra’s 2001 electoral success on a platform of rural reforms and his subsequent commitment to work ‘for the people’ (Pasuk and Baker 2009: 8). In South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun’s rise to the presidency in 2002 against the opposition of the established political elite was explained in terms of his nationalist and populist appeal. Similarly in Taiwan, the success of Chen Shui-bian, son of a poor tenant farmer, in capturing the presidency against the party which had ruled Taiwan since its foundation, was attributed in part to his populist appeal. In Japan in 2001, the surprising rise of the maverick politician, Jun’ichiro Koizumi, to head the ruling party and the government, excited comment about his populist allure (Calder 2001). A few years later, S.B. Yudhyono’s campaign for re-election as president in 2009 was described as a populist innovation in Indonesian politics (Wahyu 2010).

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